Activation of the Extraction Code

He activated the “Extraction Code” and then realized he didn’t want to.

It was 8:54 pm on a Saturday night. Super Tall Guy was at a friend’s house where he enjoys countless hours of Minecraft, more junk food than his body needs, and stays up later than I would ever allow. But it’s a friend and he needs friends.

He has spent the night with this friend numerous times and always seems to like it, but this night he texted and asked me to come pick him up. He didn’t want me to tell his friend why. He didn’t want me to tell his friend’s mother why. He didn’t want to tell me why.

And I commenced the extraction.

Popped over to my neighbor’s house and asked their thirteen-year-old son to come sit in my house with my younger two and my nephew (who was planning to spend the night, but that didn’t work out either, which is another story for another day).

Texted my son over the course of five minutes to confirm the pick-up as his last message seemed unsure. Never heard back.

Texted the mother and “explained” a family emergency.

Jumped in the car.

Drove 5 minutes down the road.

Texted that I was in the driveway.

Super Tall Guy got in….and broke into tears. There had been a scuffle. He had been kicked (not sure if on purpose or accident) but what he really wanted was just to talk to me. He had decided to give his friend another chance….but there I was.

We drove off; him sobbing and me explaining the extraction system. At any moment, at any time, I would be there. No matter what. No questions asked. But if you activate the system – the system goes into play. There’s not a thing in the world that’s going to stop a mom from going to rescue her baby. Ever.

But I sit and wonder this weekend, who’s activating the system for the thousands of people stranded in airports or stranded overseas with fear and terror? Who’s running to the aid of immigrants and refugees? Thousands of people have arisen to protest the ban. Hundreds of lawyers working hard to overturn the discrimination against people based on their country of origin and their religion.

I sit and explain to my sons the extent of my love for them. It passes all my understanding. It is a very imperfect reflection of the perfect love of the Creator of the Universe. And it is the Lord who calls His people to love the homeless, the orphan, the refugee, the least of these in this world. Just as I love and protect my sons, I am called to love and protect the vulnerable.

May we all join the fight to carry out the extraction code which has just been activated by those in need.

 

 

 

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Thank you, dear sister

Our Family
A circle of strength and love
Founded on faith….
Joined by love
Kept by God
Together forever

 

To my sister,

Thank you for the Willow Tree figurines of my three boys this Christmas. More importantly, thank you for my three boys.

You started this journey eleven years ago during whichour-family we fell into adoption and flew into love. I still remember nervously standing around a bassinet of two-day old Super Tall Guy, waiting for the social worker to find some clothes for him to wear out of the hospital. We walked to the car swinging him in the car seat unable to talk other than whispered “Oh my goodness.” I stared into his eyes while you ran to the store for bottles and formula and diapers and baby wipes. What had we gotten in to? Leaping by faith to into a family.

I broke your heart once. Probably more times than that, but once in a big way. It was the day I was sitting in my office chair and looked up at you standing there innocent and announced that I needed clarity on being a mother. I couldn’t share mothering. I wanted Super Tall Guy to be mine despite having both of our names on the adoption certificate. I needed there to be just one mother. I was naïve. I was strong-willed. I pushed the limits of our love, but you held firm. You sacrificed and continued to love me. We learned to be independent yet together.

And I divorced you once in a house of five young boys. We sat on the hard wood floor of the second-floor bedroom and divided the children’s books into yours and mine piles. We clung to memories of books that mattered to our mother-hearts. We snapped softly at each other. We made lists of books we were determined to replace as they clearly meant so much to us. It’s been two years. I haven’t found my list. I haven’t replaced the books, because it wasn’t the books that mattered, it wasn’t the toys that mattered, it wasn’t the Christmas ornaments that mattered; it was the sadness of separating. It was the reality of beginning to parent on our own. It was the fear that dug deep within us. And yet, two years later, we hold together as a family. We rely on that bind. We trust that bind. We are still in it together.

boy-figurines2“The Caring Child” – Super Tall Guy – strong and huge with occasional explosions of rage, but deep within there is such a soft tenderness.

“The Inquisitive Child” – Mr. Ornery – always wondering how to push the limits and whether that line in the sand was really meant for him or for someone else.

“The Kind Child” – the Little Guy – overflowing with love and kindness, ready with a smile and a story, eager to meet the world and charm the skies with his eyes.

Each beautiful boy a gift of God. Each beautiful boy a gift to my life. Each beautiful boy so touched by the love that you share with them as well as with your own three boys. Each of us touched by being part of our larger family.

Thank you for my boys. Thank you for being my family. Thank you for being in this together forever. No matter what.

Love,

Your sister

I Choose Love

It’s been an absolutely crazy week in the news and I know most of us are struggling with understanding what is happening and trying to figure out what we can and should do.

What’s most important, it seems to me, is to maintain hope. Just like we know that individual humans make mistakes, groups of humans and countries also make mistakes.

But it is the individual who has to hold the hope. The hope that there is better and can be better. And then collectively we can share the hope.

There must be enough of us to say, “I know you are hurting at this time and the world and the country seems bleak, but I will hold the hope.” For the time being, I will be the one to hold the hope.

Mat awesome

Suntan lotion fun with Super Tall Guy

I am doing that for my boys. They don’t even know that I am holding the hope for them. They don’t know that internally I wrestle with knowing that their brown skin glows and glistens and that beautiful skin will mark them and label them. They don’t know that I hold the hope for them.

They don’t know that I worry about them every day. Will they make good decisions or bad ones? Will they make poor choices in friendships or be surrounded in love? Will they thrive or flounder? They don’t know that I hold the hope for them.

They don’t know that I pour my heart and soul into thinking about them and what’s best for them. They don’t know that I sacrifice almost all my time and a (very) high percentage of my income for them. They don’t know that I’m desperately trying to get this parenting thing “right” for their sake. They don’t know that I hold the hope for them.

They don’t know that this world is huge and going through some crazy times right now. They don’t know much about the violence and racism and fighting and division. They don’t know that I hold the hope for them.

This week what runs through my mind over and over is “I choose love.” No matter what is happening around me, I choose love. For the sake of my boys, I choose love. For the sake of changing the world, I choose love. For the sake of those who need to hear it, I choose love.

If we respond in love,

If we react in love,

If we live in love,

the world will be better.

I hold the hope and I choose love.

prayer-of-st-francis

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Near Death Experiences Really Should be Teachable Moments

It’s crazy how insane the past couple weeks have been. The movers handled the large items and friends carried loads of boxes, but our new townhome sat piled ceiling-high with boxes for a week as we spent time outside with the neighbors and packed up for a beach vacation.

Sand is always good. Sand that has been dredged from the bottom of the ocean is near perfection. There’s not a sharp sea shell in it. You can dig and dig and dig out a hole large enough for boys to jump in and be completely hidden from sight. You can drizzle it into the forest where the trolls live while waiting to save Princess Ana from the accidental strokes of Elsa. You can mold a horse to be galloped upon. You can mold sandballs of wet sand dabbed in hot fine sand to threaten siblings with. You can rest.

There are few things more relaxing than sun and sand and the lap of waves. There are also few things more terrifying than the power and pull of water.

The warm sun was coaxing my eyes to close as I sat upon a boogie board and watched the three boys jump in the surf. After each wave, I would identify them – The First One shakes his head to get the water out of his ears. Super Tall Guy wipes the water from the top of his head to his chin. Mr. Ornery bounces and bounces and bounces. He comes up from under a wave and bounces as he awaits the next. His ringlets bounce. His body bounces. His arms bounce.

And suddenly there was no bounce. I looked again. There was his head very close to Super Tall Guy, but there was no bounce. They were too far out. They were too far out to see their faces, but I was on my feet and headed out there. A glance at the lifeguards on their stand showed that they were not going to be of any help. The panic started to rise as each wave pushed me back from my singular goal – to reach my boys who were being swept out to sea. But I wasn’t getting there fast enough. Do I scream? Yell? The three adults near them were close enough though. One man reached for Mr. Ornery and pushed into shore. One man grabbed Super Tall Guy and guided him in. I watched The First One start to swim.

Mr. Ornery wrapped his arms and legs around me as he clung sobbing in my arms. I tearfully thanked the Helpers. I praised Super Tall Guy for clear attempts to save his younger brother and keep him afloat. Suddenly I panicked again looking for The First One. Where was he? Mom, where is he? Super Tall Guy, where is he? I rushed to the lifeguards and then turned and found him. He had swum beside the current and then into shore. We all hugged.

“Look for the helpers,” I reminded the boys as Mr. Fred Rogers so eloquently stated. Rogers HelpersWhen you are in trouble, look for the helpers. They will be there.

Ask Mr. Ornery how his vacation was and he’ll say “I was almost dead.” We had to talk a lot about it that night. We talked about safety. We talked about the power of water. We talked about the helpers. We talked over and over about how you “NEVER go out past your waist” and you “NEVER swim alone.” We talked about going back in again.

And he did. Right back into the water the next day. I watched much more intensely. And I watched the new day’s lifeguard splash over to him and remind him in words and body language – “NEVER go out past your waist.”

And yet he did. Bouncing along right into the deep. This boy is going to require a whole lot of “teachable moments.” And he’s going to need a whole lot of Helpers!

But I, for one, would like to skip the “near death” moments the next time he needs to learn a lesson.

On losing our “forever family” pet

“Mom, can Roxy sleep with me tonight?” the six-year-old implored as he climbed into bed. “Honey, Roxy is dead,” I gently reminded him. Tears welled in my eyes as I thought about the afternoon. The wag of the tail as she greeted our visitors. Her disappearance as we talked. The phone call from my sister relaying the message from a sweet man who had found her….and stayed with her so she wouldn’t be alone until we got there. But she was already gone…

…and I was alone. In fact, my whole family was around me, but I was alone as I called the boys together outside and told them she had died. I was alone as I gathered up her food dishes and leftover treats and emptied them into the trash can.

I was alone as I sat on my bed in the quiet of the night, eyes stinging from the tears. I was alone.

Single mom.

Three boys.

No little dog.

Those dark moments are when the world crashes and the weight feels unbearable. When sadness drapes your heart. When guilt condemns you for not having kept her inside, for not keeping a member of your family safe, for failing to be the protector. When you can’t yet see the light even though you know it’s there and will return.

IMG_4769

Super Tall Guy wanted to keep the collar “in our house.”

We have now made it past twenty-four hours. Friends have expressed condolences and texted kind thoughts. “How are the boys doing?” is a recurring question.

The Little Guy in his concrete stage of thinking spent the day telling everyone he met, “Our dog died. Rund over by a car. She didn’t look both ways.”

Super Tall Guy woke this morning and said, “I cried for Roxy while I slept last night. We need another little dog that looks like Roxy and we’ll name her Roxy until we get our big dog.” Emotions generally are not part of his vocabulary (despite recently watching “Inside Out”) but he misses the morning hugs.

Mr. Ornery lay on his bed again tonight and said, “I’m sad Roxy died. Will she come back alive? Will we see her again? Is she alive in Heaven?” and moved on to “When are we going to Kennywood again? I’m only going to ride that circle snow thing ride the whole day.”

Seems to me that they cope better than I. That they don’t know yet the finality of death. That they don’t worry about whether I could have prevented it. Gave Mr. Ornery a hug today and said, “I cried last night when Roxy died.” He paused. “I would cry if you died.” Fair enough.

Roxy & NateI cry. I cried tonight when I peeked into his bedroom as is my nightly habit and miss seeing the white furball cradling his head or sleeping along his back. I miss the dog more than I thought I would. Turns out, I must have actually loved the sometimes trouble but genuinely sweet little girl.

It is a shift in our household, yet we grieve and learn and grow. And I am learning how to handle my own grief as I walk my sons through their first pet loss (Lightning McQueen the beta fish did not have the same effect). Time heals, they say. I wait for time.

Beware the grief
It calls upon the demons
It beckons the darkness
It smothers the flame.

 

Beware the grief
It tarnishes the beauty
It robs the love
It spoils the soul.

 

Beware the grief
It heeds no boundaries
It follows no clock
It finds its own path.

 

Rise up, oh strong one.
Lean in to others
Seek comfort
Accept the balm.

 

Rise up, oh strong one,
Rest the soul
Cry the tears
Let healing begin.

 

Rise up, oh strong one,
The heaviness shifts
The dark shall disperse
The light shall shine.

 

Hold on to joy.
Hold on to memories
And keep the gift alive.

 

10 Things you do Reflexively after Having Kids!

  1. Maintain at least one child-length distance from the galloping child in front of you as you go down stairs. It is nearly impossible to predict the sudden stop three steps from the bottom to pick up a crumb, fix a twisted sock, or oh wait! To jump off the step! Of course he was going to jump. (step 3, step 4, step 5….Quit it!!)
  2. Tense every muscle in your body to prepare for impact as a flailing child comes hurtling towards you at full speed. The possible damage is entirely unpredictable and best to assume defensive posture with wide stance and arms reflexively protecting sensitive body parts.
  3. Pick up the discarded bandaid, the teeny tiny Lego hand, the empty juice cup, the hallwaytoy blockade, the shrugged-off blankie as you walk by, all the while promising yourself that “next time” you will most certainly and definitely require the kid to do this menial clean-up. After all, it really is such an important part of their early learning. Next time.
  4. Avert one’s head at the slightest sound of air intake made by any child under age 5 (or even age 10 for that matter). You knew coming into this parenting assignment that you were going to get puked on, peed on, pooped on, but really….a full-force cough spewing droplets right into your own face? Just not right.
  5. Kiss a boo-boo. Any boo-boo. Knees. Toes. Fingers. Bellies. Foreheads. Even if it’s not your own child, because we all know the golden kiss heals all boo-boos (or at least temporarily stops the screech!).
  6. Nod and mumble “Uh, hmmm” repetitively to signal that you are paying “close” attention to the lengthy detailed story emitting from a child’s mouth even though you have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about (including sonorous descriptions read from Pokemon card collections). Clarifying questions are sometimes needed if you’ve become completely distracted, but notice a word or phrase indicating that you might actually need to know a bit of this information.
  7. Inspect all toilet seats as you approach. There really is no need for the cold wet discomfort of knowing you forgot this time. They are boys, after all.
  8. Run your fingers through a kid’s hair as they cuddle up against you. The soft curls. The fine strands. There’s nothing quite like it as you send messages of love through their body without saying a word.
  9. Jump sideways and backwards at the sight of a falling sippy cup. There is no greater pain than 8 ounces of milk inside a plastic projectile colliding with one’s big toe…unless, of course, you consider unexpectedly stepping on a Lego. It’s a nightmarish toss-up.
  10. Catch your kid’s eye in the rear-view mirror or before the school play or in the midst of a soccer game and flash them the “I-love-you” signal, letting the warm flush of love course through you as they grin back reception of your message.

Parenting is subtle. Day in and day out you usually don’t notice the patterns and reflexes that you’ve developed. Some are protective. Some are loving. All are because you’re inextricably tied to this delightful little being.

Savor the craziness. It doesn’t last forever.

“Legally Free For Adoption”

Her name is Jaleah. Her video on the PA Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network Facebook post caught my eye last week. I stared at her profile late into the night. She’s 15 years old, a beautiful girl, and is “legally free for adoption!” With the exclamation point! The phrase bothers me. It’s not like she’s a dog in a shelter (though she could very well be living in a shelter).

 

She’s a girl in the process of becoming a woman. She’s a dreamer envisioning her future. She’s a child craving a family, wishing for someone to sit in the audience to clap and scream her name as she bounces through her cheerleading routine. She’s a fragile, vulnerable teen looking for a family.

I’ve heard teens are hard. I’ve heard that teen girls can have so much “attitude” as they push and strain and yearn for independence. I’ve joked that I’m happy to have boys so that I won’t go through the teen girl “drama” phase.

And yet, it seems to me that this is such a crucial time in a child’s life. As they push and shove and strive for independence, they still cling to the comfort of knowing they are loved and that someone will always be there for them….no matter what they do.

But what about Jaleah?

Her profile weighed upon my heart this week. Jaleah and all the teens who are waiting for a family (almost 21,000 teens across the states in 2013). Maybe they pushed too far for independence and crossed the line they didn’t intend to and find themselves without that family they thought would always be there for them. Maybe they made a bad choice which led to another and then to another and before they knew it they were in over their heads and yet fighting the consequences so hard they couldn’t see the shovel digging deeper. Maybe it had nothing to do with them and their family imploded or fractured and they found themselves drifting in the hull of the “system” coasting further and further from the world they once knew.

Do you know that if no one steps up and says “I will” in front of a judge in a courtroom and becomes her Forever Family, Jaleah will never have someone cheering her along? She will stop her gymnastics and cheer activities without someone to drop her off and pick her up. She will walk onto the stage to receive her diploma and throw her mortar board into the air with lackluster enthusiasm. She will struggle with college applications and give up when it’s becomes daunting. She will walk down an aisle in white without a man in black beside her to bless her new union. She will welcome a new baby into the world and dream of what it would be like to have a beaming grandmother cradle her newborn. She will sit with her loneliness and think of what might have been. “Aging Out” of the foster care system without a home is too costly when these children have lower rates of high school graduation, higher rates of homelessness and unemployment, and greater engagement in the judicial system.

Without a family, Jaleah might wilt. Or she might beat the odds and chart a completely different course.

But it just seems that life would be a little bit nicer if she had a family.

She wouldn’t mind having younger siblings (or a dog) it says in her profile. She’d like to continue her activities, it says. She’s going to have tough days like everyone else. I read the profile over and over and I sit. I have a set of three who might enjoy a big sister. But my house is so full. My heart is so stretched. My hands are so laden. My schedule is so packed. My boys are so demanding.  What am I to do?

What I can do is pray for a family for Jaleah. And what I can do is continue to tell everyone I meet about the children who are waiting. (Click here!)

The children who are “legally free.” The children who desperately want something that seems so simple. Their commitment and parenting needs would be costly, but their gratefulness would be huge.

They need someone who loves.

Think about it.